Monday, May 10, 2010

What I actually think about Edgar

It should not come as any surprise that I have been accused of besmirching Edgar Rodriguez' character, although in fact what I did in that post is lambaste our local paper for withholding information relevant to an election.  I did have an excellent discussion with one of his supporters which helped me articulate my position on Edgar's candidacy, and although I had no intention of actually talking about any of the candidates, addressing those allegations is more important than avoiding campaign politics.

I like the fact that Edgar is a gadfly.  He asks difficult, uncomfortable questions.  He makes it difficult to rubber-stamp things.  He gets people angry with him because he stands up for what he thinks is right, and he takes flak for it.  Without question, Edgar Rodriguez is the gadfly on the school board.

So here I am asking uncomfortable questions about a fellow gadfly.  I'm the lone voice asking these questions, unable to get any newspaper to nibble and likewise unable to get anyone to publicly support my position.  I'm making people uncomfortable and I'm not going away.  Edgar and I have that in common.

There are differences, of course.  Edgar has a thick enough skin to run for office, and I do not.  Edgar's knowledge about the educational system absolutely dwarfs my own.  And Edgar is suing the school district.

This is where the maligning comes in - or at least the accusation of it.  I reviewed the court documents and didn't even want to write about the information available in the public record, because I didn't know how to do it in a manner which would respect the privacy of him and his family.  I wanted a professional to find that balance, a person who was not emotionally involved in the Middle School debate like I was.  Frankly, I didn't feel qualified because I was too close to the situation.

I will attempt, as best I may, to offer only those details which explain my position.

The case involves, as I see it, parents who wanted the best for their child, and encountered instead what they perceived to be behavior targeting them for their family's Hispanic roots.  I'm a white guy and I will not profess to fully understand just how terrible a feeling that must be.  As has been pointed out, my monthly struggle to make the mortgage payment comes from privilege, and I have never had someone target me for a visible characteristic such as gender or skin color.  I can understand the desire to protect one's child, and I have no problem with pursuing any legal means necessary to seek justice.

When Edgar informed his fellow board members that he wouldn't meet with them until they took the Undoing Racism class, it didn't make sense to me.  I looked to the other Latino member of the School Board (forgive me, I don't know if Latino or Hispanic is preferred so I'm interchanging them), Dan Torres, for guidance.  His public comments indicate that he has never experienced the type of racial tension which had been implied.

In the context of the incredible strain of a lawsuit, Edgar's seemingly inexplicable outburst makes more sense to me.  If he sees racism where another person in the same circumstances with a similar ethnic background does not, logic suggests that it's not racism, just the ordinary tension that comes from being a good gadfly.  From the outside looking in, it appears to me that the stress of this suit has made Edgar much more likely to perceive a racial bias instead of just a personality conflict.  Racism has finally gotten to the point where most of the people in this country think it's a really ugly thing, and flippantly accusing people of it is as egregious as committing the act itself.  So far as I know, he has never produced any proof, and he has never apologized for his comment.

Had I been aware of this case before I voted for Edgar last time, I don't know that it would have changed my mind.  I would have asked him then, as I ask him now, to tell the public that he feels he can effectively govern.  I'm a strong advocate of transparency in government, and this issue is one that I think think the voters have the right to consider on election day.

I understand Edgar's desire to keep the matter private, but I question his judgment both in that decision and in his later outburst.  His track record worries me, but some of the candidates this year down right scare me, so I would much rather Edgar explain why I'm off base in questioning that judgment.  The fact that he wasn't supportive of the Middle School shows, as was pointed out to me, that he is in touch with the community.

There are plenty of people who will be disappointed that I am not resoundingly rejecting Edgar as a candidate.  Both supporters and detractors love a good fight, but I'm tired of fighting.  If Edgar shows me that he can distinguish between bona-fide racism and the tension that results from asking questions no one wants to answer, he will have my support.


Maria said...

This is such a stupid waste of time.

Maria said...

Oh, PS...TLDR.

Anonymous said...

So let me get this straight. You don't want to post documents that are public record yet you will post an email thread between you and Deb? Thats an interesting stance on privacy.

Also, Rodriguez has a history of screaming racism. Lets not forget his lawsuit against SUNY regarding his tenure. From your own letter to the New Paltz Times dated 11/12/2009:

"... It's not the first time he's felt discriminated against; Rodriguez filed a suit against SUNY New Paltz in 1984 alleging the same. In that case, Rodriguez claimed that he was denied tenure because of his race, while the court felt that SUNY was consistent in requiring Mr. Rodriguez complete his Ph.D., like others are required to do, and so found no evidence of racial bias."...

In my opinion, this case is indicative of his perception of racism and is an insult to the term.

Robin said...

Hard to respect your opinion on something you didn't read. I sure wouldn't let me students get away with that.